Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Country Year - Living the Questions - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 5

"...Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and 
try to love the questions themselves...
Do not...seek the answers, which cannot be given you 
because you would not be able to live them. 
And the point is to live everything. 
Live the questions now. 
Perhaps you will...gradually, without noticing it, 
live along some distant day into the answer." 
~ ~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~ ~

The quote above from Rainer Maria Rilke began A Country Year - Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell - the book I read for the fifth week of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

I thoroughly enjoyed this 221-page book, and finished it in one day. The author captured so many wonderful details about her life as a beekeeper in the Ozarks. The level of detail and information about the wildlife she encountered during a year's time on her farm was fascinating. I learned so many new facts about birds and animals that are also common here in Minnesota that are equally as present in the Ozarks.

One of the stories she told in the book was in the section titled "Spring." Hubbell wrote about the spring peppers who she hears at winter's end in "...the pond up in the field. The males produce the calls by closing their mouths and nasal openings and forcing air from their lungs over the vocal cords into their mouths, and then back over the focal cords into the lungs again."

She said that she and a friend walked to the edge of the pond where they sat "...for a long time. Conversation was inappropriate, but even if it had not been it would have been impossible. The bell-like chorus completely surrounded us, filled us."

There have been many springs here at the farm since 1995 when that same loud calling can be heard from the pond in the west pasture. It is a delight to keep the windows open at night so that it is the last sound I hear as I fall asleep and the first song I wake up in the morning.

The author also shares her thoughts about forest management and having to cut down trees for firewood. Some, though, she leaves standing so they "...will make a home for woodpeckers, and later for flying squirrels and screech owls. Where I leave brush pile of top branches, rabbits make a home. If I leave a fallen tree, others will benefit: ants, spiders, beetles, and wood roaches will use it for shelter and food, and lovely delicate fungi will grow out of it before it mixes with leaf mold to become a part of a new layer of soil."

It is as if she was describing what we have done here at our farm as well that has brought us such joy. To leave trees standing that have dead branches have provided us with amazing views of perching hawks and eagles.

In November 2012, we had a lot of trees trimmed and the branches made a huge brush pile in the backyard. Throughout the winter of 2012, and spring and summer of 2013, we watched rabbits and a wide variety of birds make it their home. Although we ended up burning the brush pile in fall 2013 before the animals would make it a home for the upcoming three seasons, there are plenty of other brush piles on the farm in the various pastures.

Hubbell is a beekeeper and many of the chapters had references to her activities with bees throughout the year. In the winter, she described an encounter with an opossum. She said that when she was visiting the hives, she noticed an opossum who had reached its "...forepaws inside the hive, stir up the cluster, capture bees one at a time and suck them dry of their honey and soft body parts."

I also learned that when quantities of  queen bees are ordered that they"...are jealous, and would kill one another if they could. Sensing the presence of the rest of the queens, they shriek in challenging, high-pitched voices."

Towards the end of the book when another spring arrives, Hubbell finds some of the answers to questions she has had for a year. She contemplates, "I wonder if I am becoming feral. Wild things and wild places pull me more strongly than they did a few years ago...

"Sometimes I wonder where we older women fit into the social scheme of things once nest building has lots its charm .... Men don't want us, they prefer younger women. .... If that leaves us no longer able to lose ourselves in the pleasures and closeness of pairing, well, we have gained our Selves. We have another valuable thing, too. we have Time, or at least the awareness of it. ..... Time for us will have an end; it is precious, and we have learned its value."

There is a memorable experience the author and her brother have when they encounter a young fawn. "He may have weighed ten pounds, but probably not more. His glossy, reddish-brown coat was freshly spotted with white. He was a newcomer to the world."

This brought back a memory I have when Sophia, Olivia, and I were driving back from a 4-H event and were able to see two fawns standing along the road. We watched them for quite a while and then verbally encouraged them to move towards the woods. They did...and we felt so grateful for having had the experience these young, spotted fawns.

A Country Year - Living the Questions was an inspiring and insightful book - not only about nature, but one's place in the world.

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